Health Care / Medicine, Labor / Employment

Forced Flu Shots? Can’t Sick People Just Stay Home?

Dude, why don’t you just stay your ass home then?

We live in a culture that praises people for “playing hurt.” In sports, we like it when stars act like tough guys and put themselves at long term risk when they play with injuries (until they re-injure themselves, as fans of Robert Griffin III or Rob Gronkowski have learned in the past two weeks). In normal life, we value people who show up to do their job no matter what, and we are suspicious of people who take a lot of “sick days.”

Unless there is a FLU EPIDEMIC OMFG IT’S LIKE THAT MOVIE CONTAGION. Then, and only then, we start telling people to “stay home” instead of infecting the entire workplace.

This flu season has gotten so out of hand that some are starting to wonder if forcing people to have flu shots is something that employers can legally do. That’s right folks, in a country that cannot guarantee health care for all of its citizens, we can probably force at-will employees to get flu shots….

I came across a “Can You Get Fired For Refusing A Flu Shot?” question on FindLaw. The question itself highlights two really sad things about our society:

  • 1. Really, hypochondriac employers are firing people for not getting shots?
  • 2. Really, ill-informed workers are refusing employer-provided flu shots?

I feel like this is the kind of thing that exists only in the head of Michele Bachmann: The government is INVADING your body to give you a dangerous shot that might ruin your brain!

In any event, if you are in the unfortunate position of needing to know, yes, an employer can ask you to take a flu shot and fire you if you don’t comply:

Most employees in the workforce are considered “at-will” employees. That means that employers can fire you for any, or no, reason at all. So just as you could get fired for coming in late, using foul language, or bad work, you could also get fired for refusing a flu shot.

And these terminations have already happened, as the Indianapolis Business Journal recently reported. Most flu shot-related firings affect healthcare workers, who are generally required to get flu shots and other vaccinations as a condition of employment.

But what about those who argue that they have privacy rights over their own body? Well, you do. You can refuse a flu shot. And you have the right to protect your body from shots and unwanted vaccinations. However, this doesn’t give you the right to work for an employer that wants a vaccinated workforce.

I’ve got a radical idea, how about sick people stay home from work, healthy people go to work, and there’s a free flu shot guy standing in every drug store? Employers shouldn’t need to fight a deadly flu outbreak to see the utility in honoring sick days. And the general public shouldn’t need to be threatened with unemployment to go take a simple preventative health measure.

We won’t need to litigate “Orwellian Employer” v. “Paranoid Employee” if people would just act with a little bit of common freaking sense.

Refuse a Flu Shot, Get Fired? [FindLaw]

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